Out of all the chaos of the grim reality that is the fight for freedom in Libya, there is a bit of humour. The word “sniper” occurs repeatedly in news reports and everyone’s talking about “snipers” but what they are talking about is a bullet from unknown sources. These folks are firing all kinds of weapons in all kinds of directions so naturally bullets are going everywhere. In video that I have seen there is rarely an aimed shot. Where are the snipers?
To be true, I have seen a few rifles that looked like tools of a sniper with telescopic sights and a hefty calibre like 7.62X51 NATO which can definitely dispatch anyone sticking head and shoulders around a corner from 900M/1000yards. The vast majority of injuries by bullets seem rather to be inflicted on people in the wrong place at the wrong time without any help of a sniper. Proof is that time and time again we see exchanges of fire on YouTube and no one is hit after hundreds of rounds. A sniper takes only one shot, especially in still air. Combatants are exposing themselves, stationary, in the open and not being hit with regularity. If there were many snipers around, the combatants would soon learn to avoid suicidal behaviour. In the video, no one seems to take cover by entering a building and moving closer to the other side or making a flanking movement. That’s what people would do against snipers. People don’t fire machine guns at snipers. It doesn’t pay to annoy them.
If there were many snipers in Libya, the combatants would call in their pet snipers to deal with the other guys’ snipers. The best tool against snipers is another sniper.
No, what we have in Libya are thousands of poorly trained combatants using spray-and-pray. The AK-47 which is the most common rifle in use is a short-range assault rifle, useless against snipers without getting close. A true sniper will stay out of sight and pick high-value targets from long range. His best weapon will be a scoped rifle designed for the purpose. He will make a kill almost every shot and will not exchange fire with infantry to avoid revealing his location. In hot battles such as we see from Libya, a sniper will separate himself from the melee so that he will not be killed by stray bullets but can be effective. Typically he will be far inside a building so that only a bullet fired from his target could reach him and that won’t happen because the target will be killed on the first shot. He will keep his side if he has one between him and the other side so he cannot easily be flanked.
In the recent taking of Bab Al-Aziziya in Tripoli, many people were “shot by snipers”, hundreds, reportedly, yet no snipers were captured/killed. Most likely, in the confusion of battle, there were many friendly-fire incidents or spray-and-pray got lucky. The compound, described as “square miles” in size, is tiny, about the size of a football field. A park nearby is larger, about one square mile, but neither is a suitable deployment for a sniper with no cover. The wall of the compound prevented snipers outside the compound being effective inside.
Where snipers could be effective in Tripoli, between tall buildings or along a street viewed from a tall building are places where we see people engaged in machine-gun fire. If they were engaging snipers they would enter the building and search it. If they were assaulting a building to enter, there would be no need to elevate those machine-guns 10-15 degrees as we see often.
So, let’s not give the snipers a bad name. There aren’t many there.